Friday, July 04, 2014

Keeping America Awesome

Why is America so awesome?

Is it because we almost always win our wars? Is it because we consume a disproportionately high percentage of the world's natural resources? Is it because we appear to rule the world, getting into everyone's business whether they want us to or not? Is that what makes us so great?

No, not really.

We did not originally intend to be one big-@$$ country, but rather a union of “free and independent States.” Even as the Constitution provides for a strong central government, the several States are not merely arbitrary administrative jurisdictions. They enjoy limited sovereignty over their internal affairs. Each and every one of them has been the place of refuge for people from all over the world. The best, the brightest, the most ambitious, the greatest dreamers the world has to offer -- all come here, more than anyplace else. (Yes, even you, Canada.) Even Sal, who came here from her native Philippines twelve years ago, and became an American citizen five years later, says to this day that her adopted homeland is “the land of opportunity” for the likes of her, one that was worth leaving behind her home, her family, her standing in the local high society, and a considerable fortune of her own making.

So today, there will be hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and families headed to the pool. And tonight, here in the Nation's capital city, there will be fireworks on the National Mall. Over a hundred thousand people will be on the grounds surrounded by police in full tactical gear to make sure no one has too much fun, watching a concert with top-name stars, one that they could just as easily see on public television without being surrounded by police in full tactical gear. The celebratory display will be repeated, if on a smaller and humbler scale, in great cities and little hamlets "from sea to shining sea." Together, they will celebrate a great experiment, an idea, one that still works, still draws the world to itself, in spite of everything.

And what of those who were the architects of that opportunity? Were they just a bunch of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who conspired to preserve their fortunes in a strange and faraway land? No, they were White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (and one Catholic, Charles Carroll of Maryland) who made a choice they initially were loathe to make, that of breaking allegiance with the British crown. Nor was it a decision reached lightly, having pledged “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” John Hagee explains in the video above how much they had to lose, and how much many of them DID lose.

When the Nation's founders finished their work, someone asked Benjamin Franklin what had been created. “A republic, if you can keep it.” In a recent general election, Americans frustrated with the current political situation still looked for a savior, someone with all the answers, someone who can give them more "free stuff" than the other guy. But we can no longer deceive ourselves like we've been doing for the past six years. We must concede that the work of keeping America as a great nation will not be one of a single-person-as-panacea. It will be that of each and every one of us. If our "free and independent States" are less free, less independent than they were intended to be lately, it is because we sat back on our expanding posteriors, and allowed someone to take that freedom away from us, and because we lack the resolve to take it back. Are we going to settle for that in the next general election?

The intentions of Harry Truman aside, the buck no longer stops in Washington anymore; it stops with who we see in the mirror. We must ask ourselves if we are a republic worth keeping. Remember that before you get your hopes up, America.

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